The two finals Western hopes (though I wrote a piece here, arguing ANX isn’t a western team) in the tournament are set to do battle on the Rift today, and there is speculation that the Russian dark-horses of Albus NoX Luna will be able to pull off a miracle again. Though they had a miraculous performance in the group stage, there isn’t any precedent for this success to transfer to the knockout stage where matches become best of series. Meanwhile, H2K-Gaming had a run as surprising as NoX’s in the group stage in order to steal the first seed away from EDward Gaming, and as a result, are immediate favorites coming into this match-up.
Expected result: 3-1 H2K Gaming
Maintaining the script of the rest of the tournament, ANX comes in as underdogs against the EU LCS’ last hope, and I will use three different criteria to demonstrate this: overall team statistics, draft patterns and individual player statistics from the group stages at the World Championship. These three categories can accurately represent both teams’ current form at the tournament, as well as how they stylistically match-up with each other. When you begin to breakdown the statistics, it becomes crystalline that H2K are an overwhelming favorite, starting with how the teams match-up stylistically VIA overall team statistics.
These two tables display a contrast between the most important aspects of winning a game of League of Legends and how each team goes about doing so on a statistical basis. The crucial point is how H2K matches-up against Albus NoX compared to the three teams ANX faced during their group stage run. In their victories, ANX heavily prioritized early pressure that transitioned into an emphasis on objective control, and used gaps in vision to execute their play style. Subsequently, they led their group in first blood rate (86%), first dragon rate (71%), first tower rate (57%), and were second only behind the ROX Tigers in taking and controlling Baron Nashor (partly because Peanut stole a couple of Barons from Albus NoX in their matches). Their group was mediocre when it came to team play and macro-strategy during the group stages, but when you compare the statistics ANX excelled in to H2K, then you quickly see the Europeans are no slouches.
H2K is essentially able to mirror the success of ANX when it comes to pressuring the map early, controlling objectives, and then closing out a game because of their early advantage. To match the statistics I emphasized, H2K have a 71% first blood rate (3rd at the tournament, behind ANX in 2nd), an equal 71% first dragon rate, a higher overall rate of dragon control (68%), a higher first tower rate (71%) and an equal stat line when it comes to controlling Baron. If you’re ANX, a team matching, and in some cases outclassing you in your strengths isn’t a good sign, but there is perhaps something more worrying.
H2K have two statistics as a team that are in stark contrast to that of ANX, the first being their next 1,304 gold lead at 15 minutes compared to ANX’s -285. Despite a lower first blood rate, H2K’s team stats show they are much more adept at building and maintaining an early gold lead than ANX, which often transfers to a net-objective advantage. The second is H2K’s first three tower rate, which comes in at 71% compared to the 43% of ANX. This displays that H2K is a much more methodical, cerebral team that likes to choke-out their opponent once they obtain a lead. This play style is something ANX had trouble matching up against when faced by teams like the Tigers, and H2K’s draft phase plays heavily into being able to seize the early lead they need to close a game out with their macro-play.
Making assumptions from teams draft patterns mostly boils down to speculation, and since the group stages, I believe the priority on multiple champions have changed now that we’ve seen the first three knockout stage matches. So rather than comment solely on the champions displayed, I’d like to single out with champions will be crucial to the series, and what both teams will focus on in their draft phases. Of course, we can draw some immediate, useful conclusions from looking at this table, mostly based on the style each team will play, and H2K focuses on pressure lanes and ANX looking to surprise opponents and teamfight.
If you look at H2K, their picks and bans are very traditional for this tournament, whereas ANX have quite a few wild-card champions in their drafts. However, Albus NoX transitioned to frequently picking meta team compositions towards the second week, which leads me to the champions that will be contested in this series. An overview of both teams demonstrates, there is actually a lot of crossover in champion pool, as well as champions that play well into each other. Pick and bans is likely where the majority of games in this series will be decided, and it will start with how each team manipulates the match-up in the bottom lane.
The immediate champions with the highest pick rate on both teams are an AD Carry and Support, Caitlyn/Karma for H2K and Lucian/Bard for ANX. Caitlyn is a champion that was vital in almost every H2K victory, so banning the champion out I believe is a must for ANX this series, especially considering aMiracle didn’t play her once. After this, Lucian is a champion both players have a history of excelling on, which makes him a champion that will be at the forefront of the series I believe. To complement their ADCs both support players tend to play mage supports, with Likkrit drawing almost unanimous bans on his pocket-pick Brand. A champion that doesn’t show up on the table is Zyra, which has become a premier pick late in the tournament. Alongside Karma, expect Zyra to show up as a contested pick in this series, and if VandeR cannot get his hands on either, look for him to take Alistar and be a playmaker for his team. When talking about the bottom lane, it’s almost impossible to not mention the influence a jungler can have on that lane, and in this series both junglers will be pivotal players for their team.
The jungle champion pool is the only other role that has an identifiable crossover in playstyles that we can identify through champion picks. Nidalee is a champion both players were deemed respect on by their opponents, Jankos drawing five bans on her and PVPStejos drawing two, along with picking her twice. Following that, they both have two games on Elise at the tournament, but from that point their champion pool diverge in different directions with Stejos focusing on team fighters like Graves and Jankos opting for pressure junglers like Lee or Olaf. Though pick and ban analysis like this can be a good indicator of how a match-up will be on paper, a better representation of how a match will play out is pairing each player head to head.
Top Lane: Smurf vs Odoamne
The top lane match-up is a tale of two different play styles and roles that the top laners play within their respective teams. Without a doubt in my mind, Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu is the heavy favorite coming into the matches because of his dominant laning phase and high DPM playstyle. Odo has accumulated an 11 CSD@10 in the group stage, along with dealing 549 damage per minute for his team, which is light-years ahead of Dmitri “Smurf” Ivanov’s -5 CSD@10 and 362 DMP. Smurf however, with his teamplay focus, outpaces Odoamne when it comes to kill participation, boasting a 58.2% contribution to his team compared to Andrei’s 50.6%. This can be attributed to Odoamne embracing the high-damage, split-push change that has come to the top lane, whereas Smurf continues to play tank champions that peel for his team.
In this head-to-head, look for Smurf to pick champions like Poppy and just stall out the laning phase against Odoamne while trying to not fall too far behind him. Odoamne will likely focus on picking champions like Rumble and Kennen to have high impact in teamfights, but there is one champion that may have crossover between the two. Yesterday we saw Smeb pick Mao’kai, which is a champion that a) fits Smurf’s play style perfectly and b) Odoamne is notorious for finding success of throughout his career. If we see this pick appear in the series, don’t be surprised if the two players try to pick the champion away from each other.
Jungle: PVPStejos vs Jankos
The jungle matchup is primed to be the closest of the series in terms of skill, and heading into the matches the stage is set for a showdown between two first blood kings. Alexander “PVPStejos” Glazkov currently takes the crown from career-long nicknamed first blood king Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski by posting an 86% first blood rate, 15 points higher than Jankos’ 71%. Outlined in the draft phase portion, Stejos also crushes Jankos when it comes to DPM with 413 compared to Jankos’ 264. Overviewed in the draft phases portion, I highlighted that Stejos plays champions that cater to this DPM style, whereas Jankos focuses on applying pressure and letting his teammates take it from there. This is supported by Jankos having a higher kill participation than Stejos, boasting 73.6% to out-pace Stejos’ 69.6%. In addition, Jankos contributes substantially more vision than his team, placing 1.01 wards per minute and clearing 0.64 which is a stark contrast to Stejos’ 0.67 WPM and 0.36 cleared.
The comprehensive statistics show that the onus is on Jankos to impact and provide vision for the correct lanes so that his team can carry that advantage into the mid game and make up for the differential in DPM between him and Stejos. Additionally, Jankos was extremely adept at reading enemy jungler’s paths in the group stages, which will give him an effective tool to neutralize Stejos’ tendency to get an early first blood for his team. Overall, I give Jankos a slight edge in this match-up, as I believe he’s one of the best cerebral western junglers and will be able to out-macro Stejos, resulting in incremental leads that his teammates can run away with.
Mid Lane: Kira vs Ryu
Coming into the mid lane matchup, both team’s mid laners have overperformed given their expectations and are set for a bit of a face-off. Their statistics are essentially equal from the group stages, and there isn’t much of a contrast you can draw between the two looking solely at how they performed statistically in groups. However, if you look at their champion pools and the respect given to them by opponents, it’s quickly evident that Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook is a bigger threat. Receiving multiple bans on high-power meta champions and almost exclusively playing only the top picks is a clear contrast to Michael “Kira” Garmash who focuses on pocket-picks and late game mages. One champion that the two will share priority over coming into the series is Vladimir, which they both have picked multiple times as well as had banned against them. The reason champion picks are important to this matchup is that the head-to-head in mid lane relies mostly on the team’s’ jungler.
Stejos and Jankos will battle for presence on the entire map, but one difference between the two is how heavily Stejos focuses on the mid lane. While Ryu is often trusted and left to fend for himself, Kira is almost always getting pressure from his jungle or support, expressed by ANX as a team having 44.4% of their kills pre-15 minutes on the opposing mid laner. Compared to H2K’s low 16.7%, it becomes evident that this mid lane matchup won’t necessarily be decided by the two players, but rather by their junglers. While I think Kira had an excellent showing in the group stages, there is little reason for me to believe he will individually outclass Ryu, and if he does, it will be thanks to his jungler, Stejos.
Bottom Lane: aMiracle/Likkrit vs FORG1VEN/VandeR
Despite the hype that charismatic support player Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeev built up over the tournament, the bottom lane matchup is where the biggest discrepancy between ANX and H2K lies. Where H2K dominates lane — giving trouble even to the touted deft and meiko during group stages — ANX concedes it, often sending Likkrit to roam and leaving Vladislav “aMircale” Scherbyna to scale into the late game. When you look at individual stats, Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou completely outclasses his opposing AD Carry, accumulating an 8.1 CS@10, a damage percent of 27.9, a DPM of 553 and a KDA of 9.4. To contrast, aMiracle respectively has a -13 CSD@10, a damage percent of 19.4, a DPM of 418 and a KDA of 3.1, which are completely dwarfed by FORG1VEN’s impressive stats. In their victories, Konstantinos has been a focal point of their success, and facing an AD Carry that doesn’t hold a candle to him will only make impacting the game for his team easier. His bottom lane partner, Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan just needs to punish and compete with Likkrit’s roaming.
VandeR is a player that’s had a lot of questions surrounding him, but his performance in the final day of groups gives me confidence that he’ll be able to thwart the pressure Likkrit applies for his mid laner and jungler. Both players have relatively even statistics with VandeR edging Likkrit out by only 2% in kill participation, 65.5% to Likkrit’s 63.3%. The more interesting dynamic of this match-up is the mage champions that will be traded between the players. Look for VandeR to play Karma to keep lane pressure with FORG1VEN, and maybe play Zyra is response to Likkrit’s Brand or if he takes Karma away from H2K. In addition, their AD Carries are likely to fight over Lucian during the series, which primes the matchup for an explosive 2v2. Both bottom lanes tend to play aggressive champions and trade, but look for H2K to build incremental advantages and dominate the laning phase.
When it comes down to it, this matchup is extremely one-sided when you analytically breakdown each team, and as a result it’s almost impossible to theorycraft a scenario where Albus NoX wins this series. The only scenario I see is that the Russian dark horses are able to pick up one game off H2K due to good dragon RNG (i.e. getting early mountain drakes) and perhaps some surprise picks in one game. H2K has an incredible coaching staff behind them, so the second possibility is highly unlikely, and if they do drop a game due to obscure champions, I predict it will be the first game where they’re scouting how ANX plans to execute their playstyle in a best of five. If ANX wants to pick up any other victories, the burden is placed on PVPStejos, who I believe is their real standout performer and has potential to swing a game their way on his own.
Despite this, the immense individual talent and intelligent drafting strategy that is often employed by H2K makes me believe the series can’t end in anything but a 3-0 or 3-1 in favor of H2K. Though the rose-tinted view of seeing a wild-card team in ANX reach a semi-final is appealing and can heavily influence the perspective of this match-up, when you break it down logically that tint quickly fades. As much as anyone else, I’d love to watch the Russian’s pull-off another upset, but it’s just not in the cards.
Photo credits: lolesports flickr